Finding the Balance in Dating

Mark White insists that finding the balance in dating comes with no longer trying to find the balance.

I see so many articles online offering advice on how to get/attract/date/ask out a woman—the latest being Amie Longmire’s piece, “How to Date Me”—which inevitably end up offering similar advice:

Be nice but bold…

Be open but not too open…

Show interest but not too much interest…

Be respectful but assertive…

..and so on.

To some extent, this is helpful but also not very specific. In the tradition of Aristotle’s “golden mean,” these all represent things that you can overdo as well as underdo. The trick is to find the right balance, but this frustrates people who want easy answers. They read that you should be assertive but not too assertive, open but not too open, and so forth, and they’re left with one firm piece of advice: don’t be extreme. That is helpful if you’re the type of person who’s predisposed to be extreme in one way or another. It’s not very helpful, however, to people who are already in the middle, avoiding the extremes, but wondering if they make small adjustments to be a little more open and a little less bold.

There is no easy answer to this, because everyone has his or her desired balance of all these things. No woman wants to date a complete doormat or a total prick, but some may want a bolder man while others like a more mellow guy. Some women want a little more openness, and others want less. And this is fine. No two people want the same thing. Note that Ms. Longmire titled her piece “how to date me,” not “how to date any woman.” This wasn’t narcissistic (as one commenter implied), but rather she’s presenting an example of the balances that she, as one woman, wants to see in a man. She’s not speaking for all women—no one can.

So what’s a man (or woman) to do? How can you possibly strike the right balance for the particular person you have your eye on or that you’ve managed to get a date with? You don’t try. The balances you strike naturally are part of who you are, your personality, your character. Some guys are quiet, others loud; some are bold, others mellow. You have your own unique set of balances—scores on the different personality trait scales, if you want to think of it that way. And your scores will appeal to a woman who wants a guy with similar scores, such as her scores will appeal to a guy who likes that set of scores. The goal to find someone who likes the way you balance most of these things—and hopefully that same someone will balance most of these things the way you like them too.

There is no one way to act to get the woman (or man) you want. In fact, just thinking about it that way is putting the cart before the horse. Rather than acting a certain way to get the person you want, you should want to get a person who likes you when you’re acting naturally—in other words, when you’re not “acting” at all.


Photo: Flickr/Simon_sees

About Mark D White

Mark D. White is a professor in the Department of Political Science, Economics, and Philosophy at the College of Staten Island/CUNY, where he teaches courses in economics, philosophy, and law. He has written and edited a number of scholarly and popular books, and blogs at Psychology Today, Economics and Ethics, and The Comics Professor.


  1. Mark Thomas says:

    Why didn’t you publish my comment? I don’t mind uf you want to edit it, but my view was a perfectly sound one!

  2. I too would say just be yourself however most south asian men I have come across seem to feel a bit threatened when they come across women who are outspoken and unconventional. No matter how educated, well traveled or worldly they might be they find it very hard to sometimes accept that women too might have strong opinions about certain things therefore a lot of my female friends tend to downplay themselves and not portray who they really are for fear of rejection; sad but true.

  3. Dating should be effortless and attraction should be natural.
    Nature must have created us attractive to the opposite sex (sorry for being hetero-normative) so we shouldnt have to render ourselves attractive to them. In principle I agree when people say the best thing is to ‘be yourself”

    Unfortunately, for the cast majority of men, ‘being themselves’ would mean they wont get more than 2-3 opportunities in their whole lifetime. So they need to do something above and beyond just ‘being themselves’

    For women its different though. By just being herself, a woman can be desired by 100’s of men just the way she is, where she is, what she is.

    • Keith, there are two ways a person can be sexist. The first is by treating the opposite sex as subhuman. “They exist to serve our gender and our gender deserves all of the power without consequence or responsibility.” The other way is by revering the opposite gender. “They are so great that they are worthy of worship. There is something wrong with my gender, but their gender is perfect.” You are in the second camp, Keith, and I think that is why you believe men are inept at dating.

      Both of these camps treat women as something other than human with human flaws. It’s everyone’s responsibility to make themselves attractive to their mates, regardless of what their gender is, if they expect to have a balanced relationship. You need to hold women just as accountable as men. They are people so treat them like people.

      • @Piers: Both of these camps treat women as something other than human with human flaws.

        Actually, one thing that is often missed is that both of these camps treat both women and men as something other than human with human flaws.

    • Tom Tribble says:

      Guys, I just don’t think you know how to love your woman. I wish I could teach you how to touch your lady so that she loves the touch. Then procede to love her body . She will understand and love your tenderness. Then a man must be a man … and touch her, gently, then proceed to command.
      A woman wants to have a man who commands.


  4. Bay Area Guy says:

    Be yourself.

    Too bad that never works. Believe me, I WISHED that it worked.

    But if that were the case, you wouldn’t have PUA’s, dating advice articles, etc.

    • But that doesn’t prove your point. At best, you prove that some guys don’t find success in being themselves, and so turn to The Game. I know that being yourself works, because it works for me.

      • well said, justin. the men that i find attractive have found what they like about themselves and then express that with sincerity and enthusiasm. it is so great to be around them!

        lucy 🙂

      • I know that being yourself works, because it works for me.


        • (On the other hand, Bay Area Guy said “that never works” [emphasis added], so the fact that it works for you does disprove that. It still doesn’t prove that it works for everybody, though.)

    • Being yourself can be very damaging advice depending on who you are. If you engage in dysfunctional habits, or are living an emotionally or physically unhealthy lifestyle, being yourself will get you no where. The popular definition of insanity is behaving the same, but expecting different results. Here is a resource if you find yourself looking for one.

  5. Be yourself.

    The best advice is sometimes the most obvious.

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